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As I was savoring the pav-bhaji at a lone table in the cafeteria, my mind spiraled back to a curious case of a chaat corner which I experienced with a friend a couple of years back. I was in Hyderabad at that time with a dwindling company as many of my friends were moving out of the city due to the much desired transfers to their preferred locations. Suddenly a beacon of hope came in the form of a friend G who moved to the city for her job. In due course, after all the reminiscing of all college days and experimenting with the PG food, making up with Maggi and scrambled eggs, we set out to explore the food joints in and around our place. We both were chaat lovers and we soon found a chaat corner to haunt by sheer coincidence.

It was not a make-shift chaat corner. It was a sturdy bakery type shop which served mostly chaat items along with some baked goodies. We ignored the bakery items and hogged the chaats to our heart’s content. It became a regular habit to walk down happily chit-chatting about our jobs, bitching about our bosses, our legs would automatically lead us to this much favorited corner and we would often order the delicious pav-bhaji which seemed to be the best out of the lot. The pav would be so soft and buttered while hot, the bhaji would be the tangy, orange, piping hot mix with freshly cut onions and a large piece of lemon. We loved mixing the onions and lemon just before we ate and the plates would always be wiped clean. Ahh.. to think of it makes my mouth water now.

Anyway, one fine evening we decided that dinner at PG was not an option and hence the famous walk down to the chaat corner started. We had already framed our order in our mind, deciding one pav-bhaji each and then any chaat of our choice if we are still hungry. We walked and walked and were astounded to find that we had come a few blocks ahead of our corner by the looks of it. So we thought we had unusually missed it as we were engrossed in the talk of our days. We traced our steps back but again ended up in being a few blocks ahead of it. We stopped talking and with the seriousness of a grumbling stomach, a tempted mind and a watering mouth, we searched for the place which will quench all these in a few minutes. Back and forth we went, but couldn’t find our beloved haunt.

We tried digesting the bitter fact that it might have been shut down and with a heavy heart started trying to sight the building to make sure. But to our dismay, we couldn’t find that spot which the shop occupied.The cotton bazaar next to the shop stood as such and the Archies store stood as a rock on the other side. In between, there was nothing. Not even a building. It was not a mobile shop in any way and hence the building has to be there. But no, it wasn’t. Day after day, we searched for the shop or any sign of the building that hosted it. My friend moved out of the city switching jobs again, leaving me alone to look for our lost place. Whenever I passed that way, my eyes would search for that shop which filled our grumbling stomachs many a day and brought a smile on our faces. I have never tasted a pav-bhaji as delicious ever since. If ever I come across a decent dish of chaat, I sigh in memory of that missing chaat corner that vanished from our lives as suddenly and as silently as it came.

Until later 🙂